quran

Ahruf & Quran – Join islam

A common understanding among Muslims is that the prophet taught the Quran in seven ahruf (sing, harf ( حَرْف ), pl. ahruf ( أَحْرُف )). This is based on a number of Hadith, like the one below.

Narrated Ibn `Abbas: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Gabriel read the Qur’an to me in one harf and I continued asking him to read it in different ways till he read it in seven ahruf.”

حَدَّثَنَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي سُلَيْمَانُ، عَنْ يُونُسَ، عَنِ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ، عَنْ عُبَيْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُتْبَةَ بْنِ مَسْعُودٍ، عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ أَقْرَأَنِي جِبْرِيلُ عَلَى حَرْفٍ، فَلَمْ أَزَلْ أَسْتَزِيدُهُ حَتَّى انْتَهَى إِلَى سَبْعَةِ أَحْرُفٍ ‏”‏‏.‏

Sahih al-Bukhari 3219

The problem is that there is no clear understanding of what the “seven ahruf” even means. Some even question if the reference to “seven” should be taken literally or if the term is used simply to signify “many.”

The books “Variant Readings of the Qur’an, A Critical Study of Their Historical and Linguistic Origins,” by Ahmad ‘Ali Al-Imam, and “History of the Quran, A Critical Study,” By Dr. Shezad Saleem, provide a number of theories scholars have adopted regarding the meaning of seven ahruf in the Hadith narrations.

  1. The seven ahruf are ways of recitation using synonyms for words
  2. The seven styles of recitation are seven Arab dialects
  3. The seven styles of recitation indicate the seven varieties and differences found in the styles of recitation
  4. There are seven meanings to every word
  5. There are seven ways of pronunciation
  6. The seven ahruf are seven types of Qur’anic verses
  7. The concept of the seven ahruf of the Quran is a fabrication

The problem with a number of these understandings is that it contradicts the Quran, most notably that no where in the Quran does it discuss the Quran coming in seven ahruf. The meaning of the word Quran is “Recitation” which is singular and not plural. This also goes for the other names for the Quran including: The Scripture ( ٱلْكِتَـٰب ), The Reminder ( ٱلذِّكْر ), The Statute Book ( ٱلْفُرْقَان ), The Best Hadith (  أَحْسَنَ ٱلْحَدِيث ). Never is the entire Quran referenced in the plural.

The Problem with 7 Synonyms

If we say that the seven ahruf are ways of recitation using synonyms for words, we should expect to find many variations in word selection between the oldest Quran manuscripts. Not only do we not find Qurans that use synonyms for words, but the consistency in spelling in the Quran manuscripts shows the extreme care the earliest Muslims took to preserve the Quran and not deviate. Historical linguist Marjin van Putten, in a Twitter thread from 2020, summarizes how the earliest Quran manuscripts preserve the consistency of spelling of certain words even when these words could be spelled differently without impacting their meaning or pronunciation.

The Problem with 7 Dialects

The second theory is that the seven ahruf signify that the Quran was authorized in seven Arabic dialects. The problem with this understanding is that there are more than seven Arabic dialects. Also, the same Hadith that informs us that there are seven ahruf , also claims that the Quran was revealed in the dialect of the Quraish.

Narrated Anas bin Malik: Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were Waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur’an, so he said to Uthman, “O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Qur’an) as Jews and the Christians did before.” So Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, “Send us the manuscripts of the Qur’an so that we may compile the Qur’anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you.” Hafsa sent it to Uthman. Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, Abdullah bin Az-Zubair, Said bin Al-As, and Abdur Rahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, “In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur’an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur’an was revealed in their tongue.” They did so, and when they had written many copies, Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. `Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur’anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt.

حَدَّثَنَا مُوسَى، حَدَّثَنَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ، حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ شِهَابٍ، أَنَّ أَنَسَ بْنَ مَالِكٍ، حَدَّثَهُ أَنَّ حُذَيْفَةَ بْنَ الْيَمَانِ قَدِمَ عَلَى عُثْمَانَ وَكَانَ يُغَازِي أَهْلَ الشَّأْمِ فِي فَتْحِ إِرْمِينِيَةَ وَأَذْرَبِيجَانَ مَعَ أَهْلِ الْعِرَاقِ فَأَفْزَعَ حُذَيْفَةَ اخْتِلاَفُهُمْ فِي الْقِرَاءَةِ فَقَالَ حُذَيْفَةُ لِعُثْمَانَ يَا أَمِيرَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَدْرِكْ هَذِهِ الأُمَّةَ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَخْتَلِفُوا فِي الْكِتَابِ اخْتِلاَفَ الْيَهُودِ وَالنَّصَارَى فَأَرْسَلَ عُثْمَانُ إِلَى حَفْصَةَ أَنْ أَرْسِلِي إِلَيْنَا بِالصُّحُفِ نَنْسَخُهَا فِي الْمَصَاحِفِ ثُمَّ نَرُدُّهَا إِلَيْكِ فَأَرْسَلَتْ بِهَا حَفْصَةُ إِلَى عُثْمَانَ فَأَمَرَ زَيْدَ بْنَ ثَابِتٍ وَعَبْدَ اللَّهِ بْنَ الزُّبَيْرِ وَسَعِيدَ بْنَ الْعَاصِ وَعَبْدَ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنَ الْحَارِثِ بْنِ هِشَامٍ فَنَسَخُوهَا فِي الْمَصَاحِفِ وَقَالَ عُثْمَانُ لِلرَّهْطِ الْقُرَشِيِّينَ الثَّلاَثَةِ إِذَا اخْتَلَفْتُمْ أَنْتُمْ وَزَيْدُ بْنُ ثَابِتٍ فِي شَىْءٍ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ فَاكْتُبُوهُ بِلِسَانِ قُرَيْشٍ فَإِنَّمَا نَزَلَ بِلِسَانِهِمْ فَفَعَلُوا حَتَّى إِذَا نَسَخُوا الصُّحُفَ فِي الْمَصَاحِفِ رَدَّ عُثْمَانُ الصُّحُفَ إِلَى حَفْصَةَ وَأَرْسَلَ إِلَى كُلِّ أُفُقٍ بِمُصْحَفٍ مِمَّا نَسَخُوا وَأَمَرَ بِمَا سِوَاهُ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ فِي كُلِّ صَحِيفَةٍ أَوْ مُصْحَفٍ أَنْ يُحْرَقَ‏.‏

Sahih al-Bukhari 4987

The Problem with 7 Styles of Recitation

The most popular theory of the meaning of the seven ahruf is that this is about the seven styles of recitation. This theory gained traction because it attempted to tie the concept of the seven ahruf with the various Qiraʼat ( قراءات ) that have been plaguing the Muslims as far back as the time of Uthman when he canonized the Quran to stop all the various recitations that were in circulation as stated in the Hadith above.

This theory was first propagated by the scholar Ibn Mujāhid (d. 324/936), who selected seven recitations and deemed the others unauthorized. According to the paper “The Canonizations of the Qurʾān” by Harvard Professor Shady H. Nasser, before Ibn Mujāhid, there were some twenty to twenty-five different recitations, and according to the Qirāʾāt compendium of al-Hudhalī (d. 467/1072-3), he collected fifty recitations.

His paper also states, “Many scholars objected to Ibn Mujāhid’s selection of the seven Readers, calling it an innovation (bidʿa) that caused fitna (conflict, confusion) among Muslims, for he randomly and whimsically limited the eponymous Readings to only Seven and excluded many reliable Readers from his system.”

Eventually, some scholars, such as ibn al-Jazari (d. 1429 CE), took this list of seven from Ibn Mujahid and added three other reciters (Abu Ja’far from Madinah, Ya’qub from Basrah, and Khalaf from Kufa) to form the canonical list of ten.

It is worth noting that according to Shady Nasser, “Early Muslim scholars did not look at the variant readings of the Qur’an as divine revelation. They attributed the Qur’anic variants to human origins; either to the reader’s ijtihad [“independent reasoning”] in interpreting the consonantal outline of the Qur’an or simply to an error in transmission. This position changed drastically in the later periods, especially 5th/11th century where the canonical Readings started to be treated as divine revelation, i.e. every single variant reading in the seven and ten eponymous Readings was revealed by God to Muhammad.” (Transmission of the Quran, 77)

The above further solidifies that the seven ahruf does not constitute the seven recitations, as there are well over seven recitations, and historically, the variations were not consisered divine, but of human origin.

The Problem with 7 Meanings

The Quran informs us that while some verses are figurative and multi-meaning ( mutashābihātun / مُتَشَـٰبِهَـٰتٌ ) the foundation of the Quran is straightforward ( muḥ’kamātun / مُّحْكَمَـٰتٌ ).

[3:7] He sent down to you this scripture, containing straightforward verses—which constitute the essence of the scripture—as well as multiple-meaning or allegorical verses. Those who harbor doubts in their hearts will pursue the multiple-meaning verses to create confusion, and to extricate a certain meaning. None knows the true meaning thereof except GOD and those well founded in knowledge. They say, “We believe in this—all of it comes from our Lord.” Only those who possess intelligence will take heed.

 هُوَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبَ مِنْهُ ءَايَـٰتٌ مُّحْكَمَـٰتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ ٱلْكِتَـٰبِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَـٰبِهَـٰتٌ فَأَمَّا ٱلَّذِينَ فِى قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَـٰبَهَ مِنْهُ ٱبْتِغَآءَ ٱلْفِتْنَةِ وَٱبْتِغَآءَ تَأْوِيلِهِۦ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُۥٓ إِلَّا ٱللَّهُ وَٱلرَّٰسِخُونَ فِى ٱلْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ ءَامَنَّا بِهِۦ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّآ أُو۟لُوا۟ ٱلْأَلْبَـٰبِ

If we say every word has seven acceptable meanings, then this can create an almost infinite permutation of understandings of the Quran, which goes against the claim in the Quran that it is clear without ambiguity.

[26:192] This is a revelation from the Lord of the universe.
[26:193] The Honest Spirit (Gabriel) came down with it.
[26:194] To reveal it into your heart, that you may be one of the warners.
[26:195] In a perfect Arabic tongue.

(١٩٥) بِلِسَانٍ عَرَبِىٍّ مُّبِينٍ

1 bilisānin بِلِسَانٍ In language / tongue
2 ʿarabiyyin عَرَبِىٍّ Arabic
3 mubīnin مُّبِينٍ clear.

[39:28] An Arabic Quran, without any ambiguity, that they may be righteous.

 قُرْءَانًا عَرَبِيًّا غَيْرَ ذِى عِوَجٍ لَّعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ

1 qur’ānan قُرْءَانًا Quran
2 ʿarabiyyan عَرَبِيًّا Arabic
3 ghayra غَيْرَ without
4 dhī ذِى having (any)
5 ʿiwajin عِوَجٍ crookedness / distortion / ambiguity
6 laʿallahum لَّعَلَّهُمْ so that they may
7 yattaqūna يَتَّقُونَ [they] become righteous.

The Problem With Seven Pronunciations

The problem with claiming that the seven ahruf indicates that there are seven pronunciations of the Quran poses the same problems as claiming that there are seven dialects. The reality is that there are way more than seven possible pronunciations, so it seems arbitrary to say that the seven ahruf is about this.

The Problem With Seven Kinds of Verses

If we say that the seven ahruf indicates that there are seven kinds of Quranic verses, then we can pretty much put the Hadith in the trash because the Hadith that claims there are seven ahruf indicates that it has something to do with the recitation and not the meaning. For instance, Umar grabbed Hisham and dragged him to the prophet for how he was reciting Sura al-Furqan. This, like many of the other Hadith cited in the Appendix of this article, shows that the ahruf is not about the meaning but something about the recitation. So, if we side with this interpretation, then we might as well disregard the entire Hadith corpus along with the claim that there are even seven ahruf of the Quran.

Narrated Umar bin Al-Khattab: I heard Hisham bin Hakim reciting Surat Al-Furqan during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and I listened to his recitation and noticed that he recited in several different ways which Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) had not taught me. I was about to jump over him during his prayer, but I controlled my temper, and when he had completed his prayer, I put his upper garment around his neck and seized him by it and said, “Who taught you this Sura which I heard you reciting?” He replied, “Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) taught it to me.” I said, “You have told a lie, for Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) has taught it to me in a different way from yours.” So I dragged him to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and said (to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)), “I heard this person reciting Surat Al-Furqan in a way which you haven’t taught me!” On that Allah’s Apostle said, “Release him, (O Umar!) Recite, O Hisham!” Then he recited in the same way as I heard him reciting. Then Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “It was revealed in this way,” and added, “Recite, O `Umar!” I recited it as he had taught me. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) then said, “It was revealed in this way. This Qur’an has been revealed to be recited in seven different ways, so recite of it whichever (way) is easier for you (or read as much of it as may be easy for you).

حَدَّثَنَا سَعِيدُ بْنُ عُفَيْرٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي اللَّيْثُ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي عُقَيْلٌ، عَنِ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي عُرْوَةُ بْنُ الزُّبَيْرِ، أَنَّ الْمِسْوَرَ بْنَ مَخْرَمَةَ، وَعَبْدَ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنَ عَبْدٍ الْقَارِيَّ، حَدَّثَاهُ أَنَّهُمَا، سَمِعَا عُمَرَ بْنَ الْخَطَّابِ، يَقُولُ سَمِعْتُ هِشَامَ بْنَ حَكِيمٍ، يَقْرَأُ سُورَةَ الْفُرْقَانِ فِي حَيَاةِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَاسْتَمَعْتُ لِقِرَاءَتِهِ فَإِذَا هُوَ يَقْرَأُ عَلَى حُرُوفٍ كَثِيرَةٍ لَمْ يُقْرِئْنِيهَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَكِدْتُ أُسَاوِرُهُ فِي الصَّلاَةِ فَتَصَبَّرْتُ حَتَّى سَلَّمَ فَلَبَّبْتُهُ بِرِدَائِهِ فَقُلْتُ مَنْ أَقْرَأَكَ هَذِهِ السُّورَةَ الَّتِي سَمِعْتُكَ تَقْرَأُ‏.‏ قَالَ أَقْرَأَنِيهَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم‏.‏ فَقُلْتُ كَذَبْتَ فَإِنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَدْ أَقْرَأَنِيهَا عَلَى غَيْرِ مَا قَرَأْتَ، فَانْطَلَقْتُ بِهِ أَقُودُهُ إِلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقُلْتُ إِنِّي سَمِعْتُ هَذَا يَقْرَأُ بِسُورَةِ الْفُرْقَانِ عَلَى حُرُوفٍ لَمْ تُقْرِئْنِيهَا‏.‏ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ أَرْسِلْهُ اقْرَأْ يَا هِشَامُ ‏”‏‏.‏ فَقَرَأَ عَلَيْهِ الْقِرَاءَةَ الَّتِي سَمِعْتُهُ يَقْرَأُ‏.‏ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ كَذَلِكَ أُنْزِلَتْ ‏”‏‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏”‏ اقْرَأْ يَا عُمَرُ ‏”‏‏.‏ فَقَرَأْتُ الْقِرَاءَةَ الَّتِي أَقْرَأَنِي، فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ كَذَلِكَ أُنْزِلَتْ، إِنَّ هَذَا الْقُرْآنَ أُنْزِلَ عَلَى سَبْعَةِ أَحْرُفٍ فَاقْرَءُوا مَا تَيَسَّرَ مِنْهُ ‏”‏‏.‏

Sahih al-Bukhari 4992
https://sunnah.com/bukhari:4992
See also: https://sunnah.com/bukhari:6936,

The only Logical Conclusion

The only possible conclusion we can draw from this is that the concept of the seven ahruf, much like many of the other claims of the Hadith Corpus, contradicts the Quran and should be considered a fabrication.

Even if we look at the meaning of the root ( ح ر ف ) for the word ahruf ( أَحْرُف ) in the Quran, we see that the word has the following meanings:

To pervert, dislocate, change, turn away, discard anything from, alter, tamper with. To turn a thing from its proper way or manner, mistranscribe a word, earn or gain subsistence or labour to do so for one's family or household, suffer the loss of property, turn away or aloof, to be debarred from the means of subsistence, to be made to experience difficulty, straitened in means of subsistence, have one's earnings or gain turned away from him. 

In the Quran, this root occurs six times. Once in reference to a battle strategy (8:16). Once in reference to the edge of a cliff, and is used metaphorically for one who is titering (22:11), and the remaining four instances in the context of “distorting” God’s scripture, or, more specifically, “to mistranscribe a word” (2:75, 4:46, 5:13, and 5:41).

[2:75] Do you expect them to believe as you do, when some of them used to hear the word of GOD, then distort it, with full understanding thereof, and deliberately?

أَفَتَطْمَعُونَ أَنْ يُؤْمِنُوا لَكُمْ وَقَدْ كَانَ فَرِيقٌ مِنْهُمْ يَسْمَعُونَ كَلَامَ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ يُحَرِّفُونَهُ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا عَقَلُوهُ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ

[4:46] Among those who are Jewish, some distort the words beyond the truth, and they say, “We hear, but we disobey,” and “Your words are falling on deaf ears,” and “Raa’ena* (be our shepherd),” as they twist their tongues to mock the religion. Had they said, “We hear, and we obey,” and “We hear you,” and “Unzurna (watch over us),” it would have been better for them, and more righteous. Instead, they have incurred condemnation from GOD due to their disbelief. Consequently, the majority of them cannot believe.

 مِنَ الَّذِينَ هَادُوا يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَنْ مَوَاضِعِهِ وَيَقُولُونَ سَمِعْنَا وَعَصَيْنَا وَاسْمَعْ غَيْرَ مُسْمَعٍ وَرَاعِنَا لَيًّا بِأَلْسِنَتِهِمْ وَطَعْنًا فِي الدِّينِ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا وَاسْمَعْ وَانْظُرْنَا لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُمْ وَأَقْوَمَ وَلَٰكِنْ لَعَنَهُمُ اللَّهُ بِكُفْرِهِمْ فَلَا يُؤْمِنُونَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا

[5:13] It was a consequence of their violating the covenant that we condemned them, and we caused their hearts to become hardened. Consequently, they distorted the words out of context, and disregarded some of the commandments given to them. You will continue to witness betrayal from them, excepting a few of them. You shall pardon them, and disregard them. GOD loves those who are benevolent.

 فَبِمَا نَقْضِهِمْ مِيثَاقَهُمْ لَعَنَّاهُمْ وَجَعَلْنَا قُلُوبَهُمْ قَاسِيَةً يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَنْ مَوَاضِعِهِ وَنَسُوا حَظًّا مِمَّا ذُكِّرُوا بِهِ وَلَا تَزَالُ تَطَّلِعُ عَلَىٰ خَائِنَةٍ مِنْهُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِنْهُمْ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاصْفَحْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

[5:41] O you messenger, do not be saddened by those who hasten to disbelieve among those who say, “We believe,” with their mouths, while their hearts do not believe. Among the Jews, some listened to lies. They listened to people who never met you, and they distorted the words out of context, then said, “If you are given this, accept it, but if you are given anything different, beware.” Whomever GOD wills to divert, you can do nothing to help him against GOD. GOD does not wish to cleanse their hearts. They have incurred humiliation in this world, and in the Hereafter, they will suffer a terrible retribution.

 يَاأَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ لَا يَحْزُنْكَ الَّذِينَ يُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْكُفْرِ مِنَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا آمَنَّا بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَلَمْ تُؤْمِنْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ هَادُوا سَمَّاعُونَ لِلْكَذِبِ سَمَّاعُونَ لِقَوْمٍ آخَرِينَ لَمْ يَأْتُوكَ يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَوَاضِعِهِ يَقُولُونَ إِنْ أُوتِيتُمْ هَٰذَا فَخُذُوهُ وَإِنْ لَمْ تُؤْتَوْهُ فَاحْذَرُوا وَمَنْ يُرِدِ اللَّهُ فِتْنَتَهُ فَلَنْ تَمْلِكَ لَهُ مِنَ اللَّهِ شَيْئًا أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُرِدِ اللَّهُ أَنْ يُطَهِّرَ قُلُوبَهُمْ لَهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا خِزْيٌ وَلَهُمْ فِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ

This shows that the ahruf are just distortions, and all these attempts to reconcile this narrative with the various Qira’at are just desperate attempts to justify the various recitations of the Quran. The reality is that there is only one Quran, not seven, and if we apply God’s preservation mechanism of Code 19, we can determine the exact one.

For more information regarding the preservation mechanism of the Quran, check out the following article, Preservation of the Quran Past and Future.

Appendix

Narrated `Umar bin Al-Khattab: I heard Hisham bin Hakim bin Hizam reciting Surat-al-Furqan in a way different to that of mine. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) had taught it to me (in a different way). So, I was about to quarrel with him (during the prayer), but I waited till he finished, then I tied his garment round his neck and seized him by it and brought him to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and said, “I have heard him reciting Surat-al-Furqan in a way different to the way you taught it to me.” The Prophet (ﷺ) ordered me to release him and asked Hisham to recite it. When he recited it, Allah’s Apostle said, “It was revealed in this way.” He then asked me to recite it. When I recited it, he said, “It was revealed in this way. The Qur’an has been revealed in seven different harfs, so recite it in the way that is easier for you.”

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ يُوسُفَ، أَخْبَرَنَا مَالِكٌ، عَنِ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ، عَنْ عُرْوَةَ بْنِ الزُّبَيْرِ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ عَبْدٍ الْقَارِيِّ، أَنَّهُ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ عُمَرَ بْنَ الْخَطَّابِ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ يَقُولُ سَمِعْتُ هِشَامَ بْنَ حَكِيمِ بْنِ حِزَامٍ، يَقْرَأُ سُورَةَ الْفُرْقَانِ عَلَى غَيْرِ مَا أَقْرَؤُهَا، وَكَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَقْرَأَنِيهَا، وَكِدْتُ أَنْ أَعْجَلَ عَلَيْهِ، ثُمَّ أَمْهَلْتُهُ حَتَّى انْصَرَفَ، ثُمَّ لَبَّبْتُهُ بِرِدَائِهِ فَجِئْتُ بِهِ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقُلْتُ إِنِّي سَمِعْتُ هَذَا يَقْرَأُ عَلَى غَيْرِ مَا أَقْرَأْتَنِيهَا، فَقَالَ لِي ‏”‏ أَرْسِلْهُ ‏”‏‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَالَ لَهُ ‏”‏ اقْرَأْ ‏”‏‏.‏ فَقَرَأَ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ هَكَذَا أُنْزِلَتْ ‏”‏‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَالَ لِي ‏”‏ اقْرَأْ ‏”‏‏.‏ فَقَرَأْتُ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ هَكَذَا أُنْزِلَتْ‏.‏ إِنَّ الْقُرْآنَ أُنْزِلَ عَلَى سَبْعَةِ أَحْرُفٍ فَاقْرَءُوا مِنْهُ مَا تَيَسَّرَ ‏”‏‏.‏

Sahih al-Bukhari 2419
https://sunnah.com/bukhari:2419
See also: https://sunnah.com/muslim:818a,

It was narrated that Ubayy said: “I had no confusion in my mind from that time I embraced Islam, except when I recited a verse and another man recited it differently. I said: ‘The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) taught me this.’ And the other man said: ‘The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) taught me too.’ So I went to the Prophet (ﷺ) and said: ‘O Prophet of Allah, did you not teach me such and such a verse?’ He said: ‘Yes.’ The other man said: ‘Did you not teach me such and such a verse?’ He said: ‘Yes. Jibril and Mika’il, peace be upon them, came to me, and Jibril sat on my right and Mika’il on my left. Jibril, peace be upon him, said: “Recite the Quran with one way of recitation.’ Mika’il said: ‘Teach him more, teach him more- until there were seven modes of recitation, each of which is good and sound.‘”

أَخْبَرَنِي يَعْقُوبُ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى، عَنْ حُمَيْدٍ، عَنْ أَنَسٍ، عَنْ أُبَىٍّ، قَالَ مَا حَاكَ فِي صَدْرِي مُنْذُ أَسْلَمْتُ إِلاَّ أَنِّي قَرَأْتُ آيَةً وَقَرَأَهَا آخَرُ غَيْرَ قِرَاءَتِي فَقُلْتُ أَقْرَأَنِيهَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏.‏ وَقَالَ الآخَرُ أَقْرَأَنِيهَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏.‏ فَأَتَيْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقُلْتُ يَا نَبِيَّ اللَّهِ أَقْرَأْتَنِي آيَةَ كَذَا وَكَذَا قَالَ ‏”‏ نَعَمْ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ وَقَالَ الآخَرُ أَلَمْ تُقْرِئْنِي آيَةَ كَذَا وَكَذَا قَالَ ‏”‏ نَعَمْ إِنَّ جِبْرِيلَ وَمِيكَائِيلَ عَلَيْهِمَا السَّلاَمُ أَتَيَانِي فَقَعَدَ جِبْرِيلُ عَنْ يَمِينِي وَمِيكَائِيلُ عَنْ يَسَارِي فَقَالَ جِبْرِيلُ عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ اقْرَإِ الْقُرْآنَ عَلَى حَرْفٍ ‏.‏ قَالَ مِيكَائِيلُ اسْتَزِدْهُ اسْتَزِدْهُ حَتَّى بَلَغَ سَبْعَةَ أَحْرُفٍ فَكُلُّ حَرْفٍ شَافٍ كَافٍ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

Sunan an-Nasa’i 941

Ubayy b. Ka’b said: The Prophet (ﷺ) was present at the pool of Banu Ghifar, Gabriel came to him and said: “Allah has commanded you to make your community read (the Qur’an) in one harf. He (the Prophet) said: ‘I beg Allah His pardon and forgiveness; my community has not strength to do so’. He then came for the second time and told him the same thing till he reached up to seven harfs. Finally, he said: ‘Allah has commanded you to make your community read (the Qur’an) in seven harfs; in whichever mode they read, that will be correct.

حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ الْمُثَنَّى، حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ جَعْفَرٍ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنِ الْحَكَمِ، عَنْ مُجَاهِدٍ، عَنِ ابْنِ أَبِي لَيْلَى، عَنْ أُبَىِّ بْنِ كَعْبٍ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم كَانَ عِنْدَ أَضَاةِ بَنِي غِفَارٍ فَأَتَاهُ جِبْرِيلُ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ يَأْمُرُكَ أَنْ تُقْرِئَ أُمَّتَكَ عَلَى حَرْفٍ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏ “‏ أَسْأَلُ اللَّهَ مُعَافَاتَهُ وَمَغْفِرَتَهُ إِنَّ أُمَّتِي لاَ تُطِيقُ ذَلِكَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ أَتَاهُ ثَانِيَةً فَذَكَرَ نَحْوَ هَذَا حَتَّى بَلَغَ سَبْعَةَ أَحْرُفٍ قَالَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكَ أَنْ تُقْرِئَ أُمَّتَكَ عَلَى سَبْعَةِ أَحْرُفٍ فَأَيُّمَا حَرْفٍ قَرَءُوا عَلَيْهِ فَقَدْ أَصَابُوا ‏.‏

Sunan Abi Dawud 1478

Ubayy b. Ka’b reported that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was near the tank of Banu Ghifar that Gabriel came to him and said: Allah has commanded you to recite to your people the Qur’an in one dialect. Upon this, he said: I ask from Allah pardon and forgiveness. My people are not capable of doing it. He then came for the second time and said: Allah has commanded you that you should recite the Qur’an to your people in two dialects. Upon this he (the Holy prophet) again said: I seek pardon and forgiveness from Allah, my people would not be able to do so. He (Gabriel) came for the third time and said: Allah has commanded you to recite the Qur’an to your people in three dialects. Upon this he said: I ask pardon and forgiveness from Allah. My people would not be able to do it. He then came to him for the fourth time and said: Allah has commanded you to recite the Qur’an to your people in seven ahruf, and in whichever harf they would recite, they would be right.

وَحَدَّثَنَا أَبُو بَكْرِ بْنُ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ، حَدَّثَنَا غُنْدَرٌ، عَنْ شُعْبَةَ، ح وَحَدَّثَنَاهُ ابْنُ الْمُثَنَّى، وَابْنُ بَشَّارٍ قَالَ ابْنُ الْمُثَنَّى حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ جَعْفَرٍ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنِ الْحَكَمِ، عَنْ مُجَاهِدٍ، عَنِ ابْنِ أَبِي لَيْلَى، عَنْ أُبَىِّ بْنِ كَعْبٍ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم كَانَ عِنْدَ أَضَاةِ بَنِي غِفَارٍ – قَالَ – فَأَتَاهُ جِبْرِيلُ عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ فَقَالَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكَ أَنْ تَقْرَأَ أُمَّتُكَ الْقُرْآنَ عَلَى حَرْفٍ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ أَسْأَلُ اللَّهَ مُعَافَاتَهُ وَمَغْفِرَتَهُ وَإِنَّ أُمَّتِي لاَ تُطِيقُ ذَلِكَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ أَتَاهُ الثَّانِيَةَ فَقَالَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكَ أَنْ تَقْرَأَ أُمَّتُكَ الْقُرْآنَ عَلَى حَرْفَيْنِ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ أَسْأَلُ اللَّهَ مُعَافَاتَهُ وَمَغْفِرَتَهُ وَإِنَّ أُمَّتِي لاَ تُطِيقُ ذَلِكَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ جَاءَهُ الثَّالِثَةَ فَقَالَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكَ أَنْ تَقْرَأَ أُمَّتُكَ الْقُرْآنَ عَلَى ثَلاَثَةِ أَحْرُفٍ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ أَسْأَلُ اللَّهَ مُعَافَاتَهُ وَمَغْفِرَتَهُ وَإِنَّ أُمَّتِي لاَ تُطِيقُ ذَلِكَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ جَاءَهُ الرَّابِعَةَ فَقَالَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكَ أَنْ تَقْرَأَ أُمَّتُكَ الْقُرْآنَ عَلَى سَبْعَةِ أَحْرُفٍ فَأَيُّمَا حَرْفٍ قَرَءُوا عَلَيْهِ فَقَدْ أَصَابُوا ‏.‏

Sahih Muslim 821a

Ibn ‘Abbas reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: Gabriel taught me to recite in one style. I replied to him and kept asking him to give more (styles), till he reached seven modes (of recitation). Ibn Shibab said: It has reached me that these seven styles are essentially one, not differing about what is permitted and what is forbidden.

وَحَدَّثَنِي حَرْمَلَةُ بْنُ يَحْيَى، أَخْبَرَنَا ابْنُ وَهْبٍ، أَخْبَرَنِي يُونُسُ، عَنِ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ، حَدَّثَنِي عُبَيْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُتْبَةَ، أَنَّ ابْنَ عَبَّاسٍ، حَدَّثَهُ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ أَقْرَأَنِي جِبْرِيلُ – عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ – عَلَى حَرْفٍ فَرَاجَعْتُهُ فَلَمْ أَزَلْ أَسْتَزِيدُهُ فَيَزِيدُنِي حَتَّى انْتَهَى إِلَى سَبْعَةِ أَحْرُفٍ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ ابْنُ شِهَابٍ بَلَغَنِي أَنَّ تِلْكَ السَّبْعَةَ الأَحْرُفَ إِنَّمَا هِيَ فِي الأَمْرِ الَّذِي يَكُونُ وَاحِدًا لاَ يَخْتَلِفُ فِي حَلاَلٍ وَلاَ حَرَامٍ ‏.‏

Sahih Muslim 819a

Ibn ‘Abbas reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: Gabriel taught me to recite in one style. I replied to him and kept asking him to give more (styles), till he reached seven modes (of recitation). Ibn Shibab said: It has reached me that these seven harf are essentially one, not differing about what is permitted and what is forbidden.

وَحَدَّثَنِي حَرْمَلَةُ بْنُ يَحْيَى، أَخْبَرَنَا ابْنُ وَهْبٍ، أَخْبَرَنِي يُونُسُ، عَنِ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ، حَدَّثَنِي عُبَيْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُتْبَةَ، أَنَّ ابْنَ عَبَّاسٍ، حَدَّثَهُ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ أَقْرَأَنِي جِبْرِيلُ – عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ – عَلَى حَرْفٍ فَرَاجَعْتُهُ فَلَمْ أَزَلْ أَسْتَزِيدُهُ فَيَزِيدُنِي حَتَّى انْتَهَى إِلَى سَبْعَةِ أَحْرُفٍ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ ابْنُ شِهَابٍ بَلَغَنِي أَنَّ تِلْكَ السَّبْعَةَ الأَحْرُفَ إِنَّمَا هِيَ فِي الأَمْرِ الَّذِي يَكُونُ وَاحِدًا لاَ يَخْتَلِفُ فِي حَلاَلٍ وَلاَ حَرَامٍ ‏.‏

Sahih Muslim 819a

Al-Zuhri said: These modes of reading aimed at the same point, not different in respect of lawful and unlawful.

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَحْيَى بْنِ فَارِسٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّزَّاقِ، أَخْبَرَنَا مَعْمَرٌ، قَالَ قَالَ الزُّهْرِيُّ إِنَّمَا هَذِهِ الأَحْرُفُ فِي الأَمْرِ الْوَاحِدِ لَيْسَ تَخْتَلِفُ فِي حَلاَلٍ وَلاَ حَرَامٍ ‏.‏

Sunan Abi Dawud 1476

Narrated Abdullah bin Abbas: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Gabriel recited the Qur’an to me in one way. Then I requested him (to read it in another way), and continued asking him to recite it in other ways, and he recited it in several ways till he ultimately recited it in seven different ways.”

حَدَّثَنَا سَعِيدُ بْنُ عُفَيْرٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي اللَّيْثُ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي عُقَيْلٌ، عَنِ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي عُبَيْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، أَنَّ ابْنَ عَبَّاسٍ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ حَدَّثَهُ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ أَقْرَأَنِي جِبْرِيلُ عَلَى حَرْفٍ فَرَاجَعْتُهُ، فَلَمْ أَزَلْ أَسْتَزِيدُهُ وَيَزِيدُنِي حَتَّى انْتَهَى إِلَى سَبْعَةِ أَحْرُفٍ ‏”‏‏.‏

Sahih al-Bukhari 4991

Ubayy b. Ka’b reported: The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Ubayy, I was asked to recite the Qur’an and I was asked: ‘In one mode or two modes?’ The angel that accompanied me said: ‘Say, in two modes’, I said: ‘In two modes’, I was asked again: ‘In two or three modes’. The matter reached up to seven modes. He then said: ‘Each mode is sufficiently health-giving, whether you utter ‘all-hearing and all-knowing’ or instead ‘all-powerful and all-wise’. This is valid until you finish the verse indicating punishment on mercy and finish the verse indicating mercy on punishment.”

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو الْوَلِيدِ الطَّيَالِسِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا هَمَّامُ بْنُ يَحْيَى، عَنْ قَتَادَةَ، عَنْ يَحْيَى بْنِ يَعْمُرَ، عَنْ سُلَيْمَانَ بْنِ صُرَدٍ الْخُزَاعِيِّ، عَنْ أُبَىِّ بْنِ كَعْبٍ، قَالَ قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ يَا أُبَىُّ إِنِّي أُقْرِئْتُ الْقُرْآنَ فَقِيلَ لِي عَلَى حَرْفٍ أَوْ حَرْفَيْنِ فَقَالَ الْمَلَكُ الَّذِي مَعِي قُلْ عَلَى حَرْفَيْنِ ‏.‏ قُلْتُ عَلَى حَرْفَيْنِ ‏.‏ فَقِيلَ لِي عَلَى حَرْفَيْنِ أَوْ ثَلاَثَةٍ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ الْمَلَكُ الَّذِي مَعِي قُلْ عَلَى ثَلاَثَةٍ ‏.‏ قُلْتُ عَلَى ثَلاَثَةٍ ‏.‏ حَتَّى بَلَغَ سَبْعَةَ أَحْرُفٍ ثُمَّ قَالَ لَيْسَ مِنْهَا إِلاَّ شَافٍ كَافٍ إِنْ قُلْتَ سَمِيعًا عَلِيمًا عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا مَا لَمْ تَخْتِمْ آيَةَ عَذَابٍ بِرَحْمَةٍ أَوْ آيَةَ رَحْمَةٍ بِعَذَابٍ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

Sunan Abi Dawud 1477

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